New York half way to installing terror surveillance network

Published 16 November 2010

New York City is almost halfway to its goal of installing 3,000 of the devices as part of its security network; the additions to the $201 million initiative will see the project completed by 2013; the system is based in part on the City of London’s “Ring of Steel,” a camera network in the square-mile financial district in the 1990s after Irish Republican Army bombings

New York City, after tripling since June the number of cameras to monitor signs of terrorism, is almost halfway to its goal of installing 3,000 of the devices as part of its security network.

The spurt in additions to the $201 million initiative, which officials said is to be completed by 2013, may represent an increased urgency to finish the project. It comes in a year that saw federal convictions starting in June based on plots to bomb Times Square, John F. Kennedy International Airport and synagogues in the Bronx.

The New York Police Department unveiled the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative in 2005 as a proposed web of cameras, license-plate readers, and radiation detectors. Advocates of the effort said a terrorist strike in the 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street, like the one on 9/11, might send financial shockwaves across the nation and around the globe.

“This is a critical component of the nation, indeed of the world’s financial system,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism specialist at the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, California-based policy group. “A major disruption caused by a terrorist attack inside this perimeter could have cascading economic consequences across the planet.”

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that about 1,300 cameras are connected to the network as of this month, according to Paul J. Browne, a spokesman for the NYPD. In June, the network, which will be spread out to include Midtown Manhattan, had only 450 cameras, New York Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has said.

As of February 2009, he said there were 300 cameras.

Browne said the cameras installed to date are about evenly divided between the original plan area and Midtown, which lies between Manhattan’s 30th and 60th streets. They currently include 586 subway cameras added last month in Times Square, Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal.

The system is to be 90 percent funded by DHS. Its projected cost has grown from $81.5 million in 2006 to $201 million, of which about $136 million was approved for spending, Browne said by e-mail.

Another $42 million has been requested, and the city will ask for the rest in the future, since the project “will take several years to complete,” said Jason Post, deputy press secretary to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

At a ceremony9 November at the New York City Police Museum in lower Manhattan, Kelly said the rapid expansion over the past five months is “great,” noting the recent addition of transit system